Fernando Alonso makes strong 2022 claim amid Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen battle

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After a thrilling come back to the podium on Sunday in Qatar, Fernando Alonso has shot a bold claim to Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, hoping 2022 could be a “reset” for everyone on the grid. Alonso returned to the podium for the first time in seven years after Hamilton won the Qatar Grand Prix, with Verstappen second.

The Alpine driver was promoted to third on the grid after the Red Bull driver was relegated back to seventh due to a grid penalty, and managed to hold off Sergio Perez in the latter few moments of the race to take the third place.

“I’m enjoying, f*** I was waiting so long for this, so I’m happy,” he said in the post-race interview.

After two years away from the championship, it was Alonso’s first podium for Alpine and his first in Formula One since the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix, over 100 races ago.

The Spaniard already has two titles to his name, after winning 2005 and 2006 championships with Renault.

Speaking after winning driver of the day, Alonso felt it was just the beginning of his comeback, and hopes to challenge Hamilton and Verstappen next season.

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He said: “Well, it’s difficult to predict what is going to happen in the next few years but yeah, I would love to be in the fight with them and whoever makes a good car next year.

“I think it’s a reset for everybody and it’s up to us to produce a fast car.

“It’s not like this year, which was a continuation of the last campaign but in 2022 everyone has the same cards so we need to play smarter and hopefully produce a fast car and if we are in that position I feel strong, I feel ready to take the battle and let’s see.”

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Alain Prost, Alpine F1 Team Non-Executive Director and four-time world champion, praised Alonso for his performance.

Prost told Auto Motor und Sport in Qatar: “For me, he is the best driver in the field.

“The overview of the race he has is unbelievable, as is his feel for the tyres, the statements he makes about the car, and how he feeds the engineers.

“Fernando has always told me that he has become a different person, and I have to say that he was right.

“He is totally at the service of the team, and that is very good for the team.”

The battle for the world title continues in Saudi Arabia on 5 December, with Verstappen topping the driver standings by eight points over Hamilton.

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